All the News from the Salem Inn and In Salem

Monday, April 26, 2010

Modern Millie Consignment Shop

A slideshow of Modern Millie's first fashion show benefit, 9 to 5, for the Northeast Animal Shelter in 2007.  So much fun!

Modern Millie is a boon to those of us who love clothes, to those of us who don't know much about clothes and hate to shop (moi), and those who consider clothing to be the ultimate form of self expression.

Christine Robidoux, owner of Modern Millie's

Modern Millie, now four years old, is a consignment store on Washington Street in downtown Salem.  Owner Christine Robidoux named the shop after the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie, in which the main character sets her sights on marrying for money and not love, apparently making her "modern".  (Still sounds somewhat current).  The movie is set in the 1920's and was made in the 1967.  According to Christine, there were obvious fashion influences from the 60's overlaying the intended 1920's couture.

And that, says Christine, embodies her mission at the consignment store: to combine vintage clothing from the 1970's and earlier with trendy modern clothing.  So the fashion possibilities and combinations range from being able to buy hip clothing at a reasonable price to being able to explore fashion as an art at a reasonable price.  And the great thing about Modern Millie is that you don't have to go it alone: the women that work here know their stuff.  Christine has a self-designed degree from UMass in costume history and design, and any of the staff will give their opinion and help you to find just the right thing to wear- what suits your style, your body, your eye color.  This is the personalized service that brings customers, including me, back again and again.

Modern Millie's window displays make for delectable eye candy

The clothes change daily, so you can too.  Modern Millie has 800 consignors from which Christine carefully chooses what to carry.  She also has many loyal customers, and this base got a big boost last year with her fashion show, The Clothes On Their Backs, a benefit held at the Hawthorne Hotel.  The show had a unique flair as it was choreographed into scenes in which the models were actors as well, miming skits to music.  The skits were funny, moving, sassy, and poignant on top of showing off Christine's skill as a fashion coordinator.  The show was a fantastic success, and raised $20,000 for the Salem Mission homeless shelter.  Christine produced the show without making a dime- the months of rehearsals and organization were a labor of love.  Christine's following deservedly jumped after the wild success of the show, and she was nominated as "Businesswoman of the Year" for the Salem Chamber of Commerce last year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Unlikely Welcoming Committee

As you enter the front hall of the Salem Inn, you might hear soft beeping and cheeping of seven zebra finches coming from the drawing room, or parlor, to your left. When this federalist-style home was built in 1834, this room was the entertainment center and would have showcased the occupants' finest furnishings.  Ladies would have retired here after they had dined, while the men would have stayed behind in the dining room and socialized over stinky cigars and brandy. 

Ladies gathering and chirping like finches.

The room plays much the same function now as it is a place to rest, enjoy the fire and some sherry, and visit.  The beeping and cheeping are the welcoming song of the zebra finches (native to Australia) who have for so many years delighted Salem Inn guests.  In fact, the birds have been there longer than anyone can quite remember.  Dick and Diane, the owners, hazard a guess of 12 years.  They started with about three or four finches in one cage, and the years in between have seen up to four cages full of finches, all descendants of the original birds. There are always one or two nests with eggs at any given time.  When I peeked in the other day, someone had gotten a bit confused and laid her eggs in the food dish.  Occasionally when Jenn, the general manager, cleans the cages, a little escape artist gets away and has to be caught with a designated finch-catching net.

A male zebra finch has bright orange cheeks

When the finches start outnumbering the hotel staff and guests, it's time to give some away.  They have gone home with guests, housekeepers, and bird-lovers from Craig's List.  So far, about 25 baby finches have found new homes.  Since finches can live up to 15 years, some of these birds may be hanging out with their great-great-great (up to about 13 greats) grandparents.

The plainer female, who will compensate for a less-than-superior mate 
by having bigger, stronger eggs with more nutrition inside

And here's an interesting bit of information: researchers conducted a study observing the effect of the zebra finch's song on dopamine reward circuits in its brain. The male bird has two different songs, one conducted in privacy potentially for practice and the other used to attract females.  (I don't think they get any privacy at the Inn...) Surprisingly they found that the bird produced a response in the dopamine reward circuits when singing for a female but not in privacy.

Why would it be more enjoyable to serenade a partner than just to sing to yourself? Evolution can likely be credited for the positive chemical reaction that occurs in the male finch; if he enjoys singing to females, he is likely to do it more often and therefore attract more mates. It is no stretch to imagine that humans should have a similar response to activities that woo a potential mate. If you can’t stop making yourself look nice, putting on nice clothes or showing off your strength, you may well be stimulating the same brain circuitry that can drive dangerous addictions.  Luckily, these evolution-favored behaviors are much safer than drugs.  And given the proliferation of the finches at the Inn, lack of privacy hasn't hurt their song much.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Old Spot

Hi Everyone,

 Kicking back on the Salem Trolley Tour

I'm back to the blog again as spring comes to Salem.  Last week was taken up by organizing and participating in what is known in the travel industry as a "fam", or familiarization, tour for meeting planners to acquaint them with out lovely little city and its amenities that can accommodate conferences, reunions, weddings.  We took the Salem Trolley tour, went through the House of the Seven Gables,  visited the Witch Museum, as well as sampled really tasty food at Finz and Rockafellas.  What struck me most about both the interactions between the visiting meeting planners and the vendors from different businesses in Salem was how unified Salem is as a community.  Salem was presented as a diverse, interesting, cultured, and a really friendly place to visit.  It made me want to live here.  Oh, wait a minute...I do live here.  I knew there was a reason. 

Which brings me to my next blogging topic, one of my favorite spots to meet friends for a pint.

According to the Old Spot, I am "local colour", which is, to quote the owner, actually fancy talk for a regular.  Located at 121 Essex Street, across from the Hawthorne Hotel, the Old Spot is an English pub with many beers to uphold that assignation.

And it looks and feels like an English pub: low benches with cushions and pillows surround low tables where people gather in groups for a pint and a meal.  There is a fireplace and...only ONE TV!!!  (Yay!)  The wood is dark; so are many of the beers.  They serve Guinness, shandies, black and tans.  (Shandies are beer mixed with lemonade- eww, and black and tans are a stout mixed with a lighter lager.  Black and tans are named after a paramilitary group sent into Ireland in the 20's from England to suppress the Irish.  The Irish don't like the name for this drink).

The food is a mixture of pub fare with more modern and upscale food.  You can order a traditional Cornish pasty- beef, carrots, potatoes, onions, and gravy inside a crust of flaky pastry, or something as nouveau cuisine as their mushroom salad: sautéed portobello, crimini, and button mushrooms, over arugula, with truffle vinaigrette and shaved parmesan.  Traditional English fish and chips or grilled salmon.  I have yet to try the desserts, but there is one I don't even have the courage to ask about- the spotted dick.

Which brings us to the name of the pub.  The Old Spot is the name of the oldest pedigree of spotted pig in the world, from Gloucestershire, England.  We like pigs in Salem- soon I will tell you about In a Pig's Eye, another local favorite bar/restaurant.  And as an aside, my own person artistic path seems to be taking a detour into Piggy Land for some reason; my sketches of pigs have become like a personal diary.  Let me know if you like them and I will publish more as I do them.

Piggies Flirting at the Salem Diner

Piggy Family Camping

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Comedy at In a Pig's Eye

In a Pig's Eye is a great bar, with a very loyal local following.  With a warm, pubby atmosphere, it is a great place to come after walking along the harbor on a foggy spring night.  And to catch some comedy at the same time?  It doesn't get much better.

 On the last two Sundays in April (18th and 25th)
In a Pig's Eye Restaurant 
148 Derby Street


"April's Fools"

A Three-Piece Suite of Comedy/Drama

Featuring Anne O'Neill, Lauren Ashly Suchecki,  Jim Robinson and Georgette Beck
with Eric Reardon on Guitar

Doors open at 7:00

Show starts at 7:30

Tickets $10.00 
Purchase at the Pig's Eye or call 978-741-4436